If any further evidence was required to prove how the predatory business of online gaming is rigged against the punters, it has come in the guise of an internal document from Tabcorp.
In ”Fixed Odds Liability”, a missive sent to its network of betting shops around Australia, Tabcorp identifies two types of customers: ”genuine customers” – code for ”losers” – and ”individual customers who are not commercially viable” – code for ”winners”. Tabcorp’s advice to outlets is to get rid of fixed-odds winners as customers by ”liability management” and focus on servicing the losers.
”By helping to identify the individual customers who are not commercially viable you can prevent your whole venue from being managed,” the document says. By ”managed” Tabcorp means managed by head office. At present 100 of 2600 TABs are being managed.
As revealed here last year, the online wagering companies, now almost entirely owned by British multinationals, tend to take bets only from losers. Fixed-odds punters who win, even those who bet in small amounts, either have their bet sizes curtailed or their accounts frozen altogether.
One such punter, Richard Irvine, told Fairfax Media he had had his accounts closed or severely restricted by all of the five top online bookmakers in the Northern Territory: Luxbet, Sportingbet, Sportsbet, Centrebet and Bet365.
Restrictions were as good as a closure, he said, as the bookies no longer offered a fixed-price service. The point of difference to the TAB and its totalisator system is they offer fixed prices to their clients.
”The odds are locked in at the time of placing the bet, whereas the TAB totalisator system is a pool of money that is distributed by weight of money for a particular result. So, by not allowing you to bet fixed price with them, these bookies are effectively closing your account as well.”
But TAB is neck deep in the online sector too, having expanded its interests through tab.com.au, Luxbet and Sky Racing.
Although they are loath to publicise their business model – of deliberately targeting losing gamblers, many of whom are addicts – it is rational to assume that online bookmakers would wish to avoid taking on customers who will beat them. It’s not a charity.
Irvine, however, says there are two key problems with the sector: first, that their Northern Territory domicile allows the bookies to avoid paying tax; and second, their contribution to funding the horse racing industry is negligible.
His other point is that the predatory targeting of losers is simply unfair. Before the advent of online bookies, on-course bookmakers were required to offer minimum fixed-price odds. Now that technology has advanced the sector’s profits, they contribute proportionately less in funding to the industry.
Irvine has launched a campaign to shed light on the issue. He believes the industry should develop a code of conduct requiring all operators to conduct a fair marketplace or else carry a prominent disclaimer stating that winning gamblers are not welcome – losers only.
The TAB’s ”expanded risk management”, as the Tabcorp document labels it, has arisen as successful punters who used to bet online with the TAB started going direct to the TAB agencies and betting cash after the TAB site began shutting them down. The policy of centralised management was introduced once these punters started winning too much.
Irvine took his code of conduct to the Australian Wagering Council but says the AWC had no interest in it. Now that the largest remaining independent has been bought out by the multinationals the bookies represented by the AWC are all foreign-owned.
Last week came news that British wagering company Ladbrokes was set to buy Melbourne online bookmaker Alan Eskander’s Betstar in a deal worth $20-$25 million. The Betstar deal takes Ladbrokes’ share of the $13 billion online wagering market to more than 5 per cent.
According to Fair Wagering Australia, bookmakers licensed by the Northern Territory government are turning over close to $6 billion annually, with conservative profit estimates of $400 million. ”Last financial year they paid just $2.4 million in tax to the NT through a levy on gross wagering profits, capped at $250,000 per bookmaker.
”We are still getting no help whatsoever from the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) or the Northern Territory government,” the website said. ”This is the regulatory authority that in mid-2013 removed the rule requiring bookmakers to bet all punters to win a minimum amount ($1000) on racing.”